FRIDAY night's clash between West Coast and Collingwood will be a midfield depth test that provides both clubs with feedback on their recent list management decisions. 

The 2018 Grand finalists are each searching for replacements in the midfield to cover the departure or injury of star players, setting up an intriguing battle at Optus Stadium. 

Collingwood All-Australian Taylor Adams was the hero of last year's elimination final win with a smother that stopped the Eagles' last-minute surge forward. He is missing with a knee injury. 

Also missing from that thrilling win will be Adam Treloar, who had an equal game-high 25 disposals, alongside club champion Adams, and was traded to the Western Bulldogs soon after. 

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The Eagles, meanwhile, are without their captain Luke Shuey (hamstring) and star midfielder Elliot Yeo, who missed last year's final and has just started a mini pre-season to get back in the second half of this season. 

Dealing with the Magpies' midfield depth first, Finn Macrae will make his debut after demanding selection with his recent form. 

The 19-year-old was not recruited with the pick No.14 Collingwood received as part of the Treloar trade (he arrived with pick No.19) but he represents the strategic shift towards youth that the Magpies made in the off-season. 

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A major storyline this season has been the influence of young players across the competition – particularly at Sydney – and how Macrae performs will provide early feedback on the Magpies' list management.   

A natural ball-winner, he will join a midfield that has lost centre clearances in all four games and overall clearances in three out of four matches. 

Collingwood's Finn Macrae is congratulated by teammates after learning he will make his debut against West Coast. Picture: Getty Images

Meanwhile, West Coast's undermanned midfield will also be under pressure to respond after being comprehensively beaten by St Kilda, which won the clearances (+16), centre clearances (+3) and contested ball (+23). 

It was the first time the Eagles have lost all three indicators this season, but it also highlighted Shuey's importance after the team won all three with their captain starring against Port Adelaide one week prior. 

Without the Norm Smith medallist, the Eagles are working through what their best available midfield looks like and used Jarrod Brander as a wingman and occasional centre square midfielder against the Saints. 

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The apparent issue for West Coast's midfield is it doesn't yet have one or two top-end youngsters demanding selection, in the way Macrae looks to have done, to replenish its midfield depth. 

A reason for this is the 2019 exchange period, which saw the Eagles package picks 14, 24 and 37 in the 2019 NAB AFL Draft with their first-round selection in 2020 in exchange for Tim Kelly. 

That is not to criticise the Kelly deal, which was both a long- and short-term play for the Eagles, who should get seven to eight years' service out of the classy midfielder. 

West Coast's Tim Kelly in action against Port Adelaide in round three on April 3, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

But it is a reason why top-end talent is not pushing up underneath at the moment and it will see responsibility to lift fall on Kelly, Dom Sheed and Andrew Gaff, who have all been inconsistent in the opening month.  

While Macrae and the injection of youth can address the Magpies' midfield depth, the heat will be on the Eagles' leaders to address theirs. 

It's a reflection of both clubs' recent list management decisions and should have a big bearing on the result of what is a crunch game under the Friday night spotlight.